Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether adiposity affects the attainment of V˙O2max.
Methods: Sixty-seven male and 68 female overweight (body mass index (BMI) = 25-29.9 kg·m−2) and obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg·m−2) participants undertook a graded treadmill test to volitional exhaustion (phase 1) followed by a verification test (phase 2) to determine the proportion who could achieve a plateau in V˙O2 and other "maximal" markers (RER, lactate, HR, RPE).
Results: At the end of phase 1, 46% of the participants reached a plateau in V˙O2, 83% increased HR to within 11 beats of age-predicted maximum, 89% reached an RER of ≥1.15, 70% reached a blood lactate concentration of ≥8 mmol·L−1, and 74% reached an RPE of ≥18. No significant differences between genders and between BMI groups were found with the exception of blood lactate concentration (males = 84% vs females = 56%, P < 0.05). Neither gender nor fatness predicted the number of other markers attained, and attainment of other markers did not differentiate whether a V˙O2 plateau was achieved. The verification test (phase 2) revealed that an additional 52 individuals (39%) who did not exhibit a plateau in V˙O2 in phase 1 had no further increase in V˙O2 in phase 2 despite an increase in workload.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that the absence of a plateau in V˙O2 alone is not indicative of a failure to reach a true maximal V˙O2 and that individuals with excessive body fat are no less likely than "normal-weight" individuals to exhibit a plateau in V˙O2 provided that the protocol is appropriate and encouragement to exercise to maximal exertion is provided.